Dartmouth Events

Minor Characters and the Aestheticization of Waste in The Story of the Stone

A talk given by Sophie Volpp (East Asian Languages & Cultures and Comparative Literature, UC Berkeley). Hosted by Yiren Zheng (Society of Fellows and ASCL).

Tuesday, May 2, 2023
5:00pm – 6:30pm
Carpenter 201F
Intended Audience(s): Public
Categories: Academic Calendar, Arts, Arts and Sciences, Homepage Featured, Lectures & Seminars


Information about the talk:

In what ways do minor characters comprise a novel’s infrastructure? Previous scholarship on minor characters centered on the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century English novel has viewed minor characters as each having a place in a narrative structure; the totality of the characters, major and minor, compete for a fixed pie of narrative attention.  The minor characters in an eighteenth-century Chinese novel The Story of the Stone (Hong lou meng), however, can number in the hundreds, putting in question the notion of a completely articulated structure or a delimited narrative attention. How might a shift from thinking about structure to infrastructure change the way we think about minor character? I ask how Cao Xueqin’s mid-eighteenth-century novel theorizes the space occupied by its minor characters, and how the aestheticization of waste in the novel is relevant to thinking about the role played by its minor characters, both thematically and narratologically. 

Sophie Volpp is professor of East Asian Languages and Cultures and Comparative Literature. She works in Chinese literature of the 16th through 19th centuries, and is the author of Worldly Stage: Theatricality in Seventeenth-Century China (Harvard, 2011) and The Substance of Fiction: Literary Objects in China, 1550-1775 (Columbia, 2022). She has also translated the work of pre-modern women poets and dramatists. She is currently at work on two projects: a book about the efforts of the National Peiping Library (now the National Library of China) to preserve their rare book collection during the Sino-Japanese war, and a book about the figuration of referents in the eighteenth-century novel The Story of the Stone (Honglou meng) entitled The Stone and the World.

This lecture is open to public and we welcome faculty, students, and staff with any disciplinary backgrounds. If you would like to have your access needs met to attend this event, please contact Yiren Zheng (yiren.zheng@dartmouth.edu).

For more information, contact:
Yiren Zheng

Events are free and open to the public unless otherwise noted.